Howardism Musings from my Awakening Dementia
My collected thoughts flamed by hubris
Home PageSend Comment

We don't want religion to be a kind of escapism. We want it to be more than that, right? We wouldn't want to establish a whole philosophy around something that is really trying to get away from reality. But then, my question would be: why do you have to move that outside of yourself? Move it inside of yourself, and it will be there. You can find it there.

—Anne Provoost

Got an email from an anonymous writer, who said:

It's a literal truth. Every culture of the world tells the same story.

That's impossible to prove, since the people who conquered all of these primitive cultures and who were translating and writing it down also believed in the proposition that these people were simply copying their own "universal" myths.

Besides, cultures not influenced in such a way, like China, do not have such stories. (And no, mentioning that the ideogram for "boat" has an "8" in it doesn't prove it… especially since 8 also refers to the word several).

Why Do We Love Noah?

While walking down the aisle of my local toy store with my kids, I counted three different sets of Noah and his tub of animals. While you can order them online, I have yet to see the Jesus Action-figure there, or any other religious toy… well, except for elves and whatnot in December.

What is it about this story that is so heart-warming and viewed as universal that we want to give our kids non-waterproof boats with giraffe heads sticking out the top?

What follows are some ideas as to why we do and some thoughts about why we shouldn't.

People, and their memories, seem to be wrapped in events. The more calamitous the event, the more it is etched into our brains, the more we refer to it, and the more we talk about it. This is understandable, as it is how we understand an event or situation, and it is how we finally accept it. This is part of our programming.

Besides, tragedies makes much better stories. Can you imagine asking your grandmother for a story, and she goes on with, "Well, in 1939, nothing much happened. Then in 1940, we didn't get as many peas planted as I would have liked, but not much else happened…"

The point of any story is to tell something significant, and more often than not, we talk calamities. And these calamities can be pretty universal… wars, famines, meteorites, volcanoes, psycho-ex-girlfriends, and yes, floods. From the perspective of a small group of people, a calamity feels like it affects the whole world.

In the 1800's there was a great debate among geologists between the catastrophists (who believed that mountains and all geological artifacts were created quickly by calamities) and the uniformitarianists (who believed that these same artifacts were done gradually over millions of years).

While the correct answer is actually a fusion of both opinions, it was the general population (spurred by many preachers) that supported the catastrophists. In fact, the fundamentalists continue to adhere strictly to this opinion in their attempt at keeping the world's creation within Biblical time-frames.

But if we are telling children the Noah story, then yeah, maybe it is best to let them play with the animals in order to come to grips with such a terrible, horrific story…

Anne Provoost, author of the book In the Shadow of the Ark, was interviewed by Bill Moyers for his PBS special, Faith and Reason, and related the following story:

Before I had children, I was already collecting their books, you know. And there's a wonderful book that I'm sure many people here in the United States will know or remember. It's a picture book by Peter Spier. And it only has pictures. But it's the story of Noah and the ark. It's an old book and what you see, at some point, is you see the animals embark. And then you'll see a bunch of animals sitting outside in one frame, and then in the next frame, in the next picture, you'll see… they all have wet feet. And in the next picture, you only see the trunk of the elephant right above water level, and the nostrils of the giraffe. And in the next picture, all you see is water. And that was really, really confrontational to me.

Later on in the interview, Bill Moyers asks her about her new book:

Did you write this story as a mother…of three children? Because the children…who died in the great flood…were neither righteous nor unrighteous. And yet, they perished by the tens of thousands, if you want to believe this story.

To that, she responded:

They play an important part in the book where you know they're drowning. And [in] describing them, they're wearing beautiful gowns because they were loved by their parents… no parent will ever think, "I have a bad child, it deserves to drown."

In every boatload of animals at the toy store, there is an exact number of animals that can fit on the boat. No one gets left behind. It certainly would be a cruel joke to have an ark with unicorns that don't fit.

But what about the message this story tells about the nature of God? Are you sure it is the message you want to afflict your children with? I have heard before that these stories "demonstrates God's love by showing how he saves those who obey him."

But God wasn't saving Noah from some great calamity, but simply from himself. Once again, from the interview of Anne Provoost by Bill Moyers:

Provoost: The order, you know, the idea of the flood is coming from that God. He's choosing, and that's, you know, he's not choosing because he wants to save the people for an evil that he doesn't have any power over. It's his evil, which is the flood.

Moyers: At first you think he's saving a good man from a calamity. Then you realize he's saving Noah from a good God who is also a bad God. This God is one and the same, good and bad.

Provoost: Right. And this God is destroying his own creation. So, you wonder, you know, why do you create something that will turn out to be this bad? And then you're going to probably punish them for it? Maybe there's something wrong in the making.

This is the central philosophical argument called the "Problem of Evil", and it presence is a pretty large hole at the bottom of the ark. For Bill Moyers really hit the nail when he said, "Can you trust a God who doesn't get it right?"

I believe that Bill Moyers is a deeply contemplative, if not religious, man, and so he has probably come up with his own answer to this "problem"… Just as, I suppose, every other religious and thinking Christian has. And maybe wrestling with such an angel is good for children to embark early in life.

Tell others about this article:
Click here to submit this page to Stumble It